January 7, 2011
Day 3 at AALS
At 7 am, law librarians met for breakfast and a talk with Dean Don Polden, who is chairing the ABA standards review committee. Dean Poliden began his talk by telling us he does not know how we do what we do. I felt like saying that I and all the directors sitting in the room can do what they do because they do not have to fear loosing their jobs when they make the hard choices or speak the hard words. But I restrained myself. Afterall, it was 7 o'clock in the morning for goodness sake!
Dean Polden followed his words of praise by telling us the new standards were going to turn our world upside down, but we should not take it personally. Nice.
After giving a run down of the proposed changes and the process to adopt them (which he said would be about a 2 1/2 year process), the floor was open for questions or comments.
Betsy McKenzie summarized concerns about the elimination of 603(d) giving library directors security of position AND the elimination of needing an advanced degree in library or information sciences to be a law library director. She pointed out that we now have situations where the true librarian is the associate director who enjoys no benefits of security of position, while the titular head is a doctrinal professor who is quite uninformed about information trends and library services. These associate directors who perform the work of a director, will not speak with site evalutors or even their deans about their situations because they fear loosing their jobs. If you take away security of posiiton for library directors as well, you will have a class of senior personnel who will be unable to speak frankly to the ABA about their schools.
To be honest, I do not think Dean Polden understood the analogy that Professor McKenzie was trying to make. But I am pretty sure everyone else in the room got it.
Paul Callister also commented about changes in 601, making the library an "active and responsive" force and suggested to Dean Polden that there be language included that charges the school administration with cooperating with the Library in this goals. He also commented about the weakened security language in 405 that would replace the security language of 603(d). Under proposed 405, schools are free to create classes of voting blocks that could only vote on certain issues. Professor Callister pointed out that it would be likely that directors would be excluded from voting on curriculum reform measures, especially the kind demanded by the proposed outcome measures, because doctrinal professors were not supportive of those changes and library directors are strongly in favor of included skills assessment as part of our mission. As he explained, it is not in the best interests of the ABA in their zeal for standard reform to dampen the voice of librarians in curriculum reform.
Again, it was obvious that Dean Polden was not particularly interested in revising what was already proposed. At least, that was my opinion. In fact, I found the whole exercise to be unproductive and I walked away disgusted with the attack on my profession and my colleagues. I hope Dean Polden does not "take it personally."
Once we broke from that meeting, we had quite a bit of time until the section presentation on the call for papers. I filled that time by attending the workshop for site evaluators. I have been interested in working with a site team for a while and I wanted to hear what it entailed. It sounds like a lot of work, but also seems rewarding.
After that workshop, I attended the call for papers where we heard very interesting presentations by:
- Vicenc Feliu and Helen Frazer (embedded librarians, article to be published in the Journal of Legal Education)
- Dennis Kim-Prieto (developing information literacy standards for law students)
- Susan Nevelow Mart (empirical research on case retrival on Lexis and Westlaw - which really blew Ron Wheeler's mind and the rest of us as well)
This brought us to midday and a much deserved respite from conferencing. I used the time to grade my students' papers and then returned to the conference at 5:45 to attend the second meeting of the House of Representatives.
At this meeting, the new President accepted his position (Michael Olivas). President Olivas gave a really good acceptance speech, and told us he would fight for our academic freedom. It would be great to see him get in the ring with Dean Polden because he is much bigger and would probably win!
One final comment about Dean Polden's breakfast lecture. He told us that he learned that many of us have been sending in letters that were not posted to the committee web site (including yours truly). He acknowledged that there were some letters that they felt the author would not want them to post so they didn't - but they did not ask the author about it so I'm not sure how much weight I give to that statement. As to the others, he said he would investigate the situation. So, if you sent a letter and it did not get posted, keep monitoring their web site.
And that is the news from San Francisco tonight... (VS)